Meet the Reclusive Software Billionaire Attacking Elon Musk & More Trending News


“Trillion-Dollar Ponzi Scheme.”

“Deep Flaws.”


The tv adverts for Dan O’Dowd, a software program billionaire working as a Democrat for Senate in California, are usually not your typical marketing campaign spots. To a rare diploma, they’re all aimed toward one subject: Tesla’s automated driving software program. Not at his putative opponent, Senator Alex Padilla, the incumbent Democrat.

O’Dowd’s marketing campaign slogan is “Making Computers Safe for Humanity.” Tesla’s computer systems, he claims, are usually not.

“The problem of the last five or 10 years has been that we’ve been taking everything that our lives depend on and putting computers in charge of it,” O’Dowd stated in an interview. “So now our power grid, our cars, or our dams, or bridges, hospitals — everything has been put in computers that have been put in charge of everything.”

He added: “And a lot of the software that was used to do that is very poor quality.”

O’Dowd’s preliminary focus, he stated, is on Tesla’s full self-driving software program, which he says ought to have by no means been allowed on the street.

“The software that drives cars that are going to have millions of people depending on it should be our best software, the most carefully designed and tested software,” he stated. “Instead we’re using literally the worst software.”

O’Dowd additionally ran a paid advert in a print version of The New York Times, headlined “Don’t Be a Tesla Crash-Test Dummy.” The advert promotes The Dawn Project, O’Dowd’s web site highlighting his experience as a software program engineer for initiatives like the Boeing 787 and the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet.

Some of O’Dowd’s critics have questioned the motives behind his anti-Tesla marketing campaign. Car corporations use his firm’s software program in varied parts and techniques, together with automated driving techniques.

For Democrats, Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, makes for an inviting political quarry.

In latest weeks, Musk has shared his unsolicited ideas on politics, free speech, “cancel culture,” his “hardcore litigation department” and anything that appears to cross his thoughts on Twitter. He has bashed the Democratic Party as the celebration of “division and hate” and stated that he’ll now “vote Republican.”

Musk’s engagement in public debate has value him dearly. The worth of Tesla shares has dropped by practically $400 since the information first emerged in early April that he had taken a stake in Twitter, which he has since agreed to buy.

Tesla didn’t reply to a request for remark for this text. On its web site, the firm says that its full self-driving system requires “active driver supervision” and doesn’t “make the vehicle autonomous.”

But Musk has at instances implied in any other case. “I’m highly confident the car will drive itself for the reliability in excess of a human this year,” he stated in January 2021. “This is a very big deal.”

When I requested O’Dowd why he had taken the unorthodox route of working for workplace, moderately than beginning a nonprofit and easily elevating the concern in the public enviornment, he stated he had taken that strategy already.

“I’ve tried nearly everything,” he stated. “I’ve tried going to the government, to the regulators, to the politicians, to the companies themselves.”

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“I’ve been giving speeches for seven years, feeling rather lonely,” he stated. But now that his campaign in opposition to Tesla has gotten in depth protection, he added, “I’ve not been feeling so lonely.”

If the state of California or another authorized authority decrees that Tesla’s self-driving software program shouldn’t be prepared for public use, he’ll “shut up,” he stated.

But for now, O’Dowd is keen to spend “whatever it takes” to attain his aim of taking it off the market, he stated. “A whole raft of more commercials” are in the works.

“I don’t have a budget,” he stated matter-of-factly.

O’Dowd is absolutely self-funding his marketing campaign. He has already spent practically $3.5 million on adverts, way over some other candidate in the race. His marketing campaign supervisor is Jon Blair, a veteran Democratic strategist who beforehand helped elect Gina Raimondo, the former governor of Rhode Island.

He’s additionally employed Mark Putnam, a Democratic ad-maker whose agency has grow to be well-known for making gauzy biographical movies for candidates, together with spots for Amy McGrath and M.J. Hegar that helped launch them into the nationwide highlight.

Putnam’s adverts for O’Dowd function a lot of the traits which have made him one in every of the most sought-after artistic minds in his area: emotional urgency, first-person testimonials and compelling footage. For a nontraditional marketing campaign topic, they’re pretty arresting.

Putnam’s most up-to-date advert, the one which accuses Musk of working a “Ponzi scheme,” is sort of two minutes lengthy — a rare indulgence for many campaigns.

But O’Dowd’s operation shouldn’t be like most campaigns. He doesn’t make use of an official pollster, although he has commissioned polls. He shouldn’t be holding marketing campaign rallies or strolling rope traces, although he has held conferences with small teams of voters, curiosity teams and elected officers to air his considerations.

O’Dowd advantages from federal rules that require broadcasters to offer steep reductions to certified candidates for public workplace. Had he arrange a brilliant PAC or another automobile to underwrite his adverts, broadcasters would have had extra leeway to refuse them, or to cost hefty charges.

But there’s nothing untoward about what he’s doing, consultants on marketing campaign regulation stated.

“It’s not legally novel to run a single-issue campaign, even when that issue is hyper-focused,” stated Adav Noti, vp and authorized director of the Campaign Legal Center. “The law is pretty agnostic as to what candidates choose to focus on.”

The main is developing on June 7. Because of California’s distinctive election legal guidelines, underneath which the high two finishers advance to the basic election, O’Dowd could possibly be in a head-to-head matchup with Padilla in the fall.

O’Dowd doesn’t say so explicitly, however he’s not making an attempt to win, precisely.

“I’m going to limit myself to these issues very carefully,” he stated. “And I’m going to tell people, you should vote for me if you think this is the biggest problem.”

O’Dowd insisted that his firm, Green Hills Software, shouldn’t be a competitor to Tesla.

“We don’t make self-driving cars,” he stated, including that some automotive corporations have been utilizing its software program in sure low-level parts. “That’s not our business.”

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Green Hills promotes its experience in making specialised software program utilized in automated driving techniques. Its web site says that its code is utilized in “hundreds of millions of vehicles.”

The New York Times has reported extensively on the shortcomings of Musk’s push for absolutely autonomous vehicles, together with in a latest documentary movie.

In February, Tesla recalled 54,000 of its vehicles to disable a function of its software program that allowed the automobiles to make rolling stops in some circumstances. There are total web sites dedicated to documenting deaths involving Teslas, together with these the place driver-assistance options have been proved to have been concerned.

When we spoke in late April, O’Dowd stated he had not spoken to Musk about his considerations — although not for lack of making an attempt. “I’ve made three or four endeavors to do so through mutual friends,” O’Dowd stated. “Trust me, he knows who I am. He knows what I do. And he’s not interested.”

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On Politics frequently options work by Times photographers. Here’s what Doug Mills advised us about capturing the picture above:

The photograph was taken throughout a information convention in Tokyo with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan, simply after President Biden stated he was keen to defend Taiwan with army power, if obligatory. At this second, the president was pondering one other query, however reporters in the room have been buzzing — everybody knew he had simply made the information of the day.

And right here’s what Erin Schaff needed to say about this beautiful church in Ecuador:

I used to be the single pool photographer for the first girl’s six-day go to to Latin America. She went to Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica, on a mission to reaffirm the U.S. dedication to the area prematurely of the Summit of the Americas, which goes to be held in June in Los Angeles.

There’s slightly bit extra freedom for the first girl in a approach that there isn’t for the president. From a images perspective, it was enjoyable simply to get to see her interacting with youngsters and assembly with varied different first girls and seeing a little bit of her character.

This Jesuit church we visited in the essential sq. in Quito, Ecuador, is a well-known instance of colonial-era Baroque structure. Locals simply name it “La Compañía.” When we entered, there was a piano participant taking part in “Ave Maria.” It was very darkish inside, so I had to make use of a slower shutter pace to seize the golden glow coming off the partitions. It was a extremely stunning second.

Is there something you suppose we’re lacking? Anything you need to see extra of? We’d love to listen to from you. Email us at

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